LARGO — Largo High School football coach Marcus Paschal has an enviable social conscience that extends well beyond the playing field. That benevolence is on display each summer when Paschal holds a camp for children from the Ridgecrest Community where he grew up.
USF professor Travis Bell took notice of how Paschal values giving back as much as winning. It is the impetus for Bell's documentary, Packer Pride, which debuts at the All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival at noon Saturday at LA Live.
"I read about how involved Marcus was in the community, and I started thinking how much that would make a good story to tell," said Bell, whose documentary runs about 15 minutes. "I wanted to highlight the deep-rooted passion Marcus has in what he does."
Paschal, a former NFL player who was a star at the school, was hired to coach his alma mater last spring. In his debut season, Paschal is currently 5-4 and clinched the Packers' 10th straight playoff appearance as the runnerup in Class 6A, District 7.
The documentary focuses not only on Pachal's coaching acumen but his efforts to use football to uplift those within the community.
"Travis approached me about the project in the summer, and I was immediately on board," Paschal said. "Anything to shine a light on the Largo football program and Ridgecrest."
From 2000-01, Paschal was a quarterback and defensive back for Largo. He went on to play for Iowa, becoming the first big recruit under former Largo coach Rick Rodriguez. Signed as an undrafted free agent by the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, Paschal had a five-year NFL career with four different teams.
Professional athletes form a special group of prospective charitable givers. Many come into their money very quickly with contracts that lift them into the financial stratosphere.
Some, like Paschal, eventually decide to give something back.
But Paschal's charitable leanings go beyond donations, making appearances or signing autographs. He has always lived in Largo and came back in the offseason to mentor other players, including former Packer standout Leonard Johnson, who is now a defensive back with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
"I grew up watching Marcus play, and he helped me out in so many ways," Johnson said. "I've always liked his charisma and the way he carries himself. You wouldn't know he played in the NFL. He always wants to see people succeed and is always helping them reach their goals."
When Largo was looking for a head coach to replace Rodriguez, they turned to Paschal, whose institutional knowledge helped him stand out among candidates when he was hired. In choosing Paschal, the Packers ensured continuity with the program in style and substance, much to the approval of the returning players and those within the community.
"The biggest thing I want to do is show kids they can use athletics as a vehicle to go on to bigger things," Paschal said. "They just have to strive for it and do the right things."
Bell, who has been part of USF's faculty since 2012, started filming his documentary in the summer and stopped after Largo's preseason jamboree. The All Sports Los Angeles Film Festival is today through Sunday. The films will screen at Regal Cinemas 14 at LA Live.
Bell has continued filming through the regular season in hopes of using the additional footage in an updated documentary that he will submit to the Gasparilla and Sarasota Film Festivals.
Paschal and the players have already watched the documentary.
"We really liked it," Largo receiver Dakarai Allen said. "It shows that someone who has had a life just like ours can make it big and it gives us hope that one day we can make it big just like our coach."